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article 23

Supreme Court of India

People'S Union For Democratic ... vs Union Of India & Others on 18 September, 1982

Article 23 enacts a very important fundamental right in the following terms :


"Art. 23 : Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour-

(1) Traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. (2) Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from imposing compulsory service for public purposes, and in imposing such service the State shall not make any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste or class or any of them.

Now many of the fundamental rights enacted in Part III operate as limitations on the power of the State and impose negative obligations on the State not to encroach on individual liberty and they are enforceable only against the State. But there are certain fundamental rights conferred by the Constitution which are enforceable against the whole world and they are to be found inter alia in Articles 17, 23 and 24. We have already discussed the true scope and ambit of Article 24 in an earlier portion of this judgment and hence we do not propose to say anything more about it. So also we need not expatiate on the proper meaning and effect of the fundamental right enshrined in Article 17 since we are not concerned with that Article in the present writ petition. It is Article 23 with which we are concerned and that Article is clearly designed to protect the individual not only against the State but also against other private citizens. Article 23 is not limited in its application against the State but it prohibits "traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour" practised by anyone else. The sweep of Article 23 is wide and unlimited and it strikes at traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour" wherever they are found. The reason for enacting this provision in the chapter on fundamental rights is to be found in the socio-economic condition of the people at the time when the Constitution came to be enacted. The Constitution makers, when they set out to frame the Constitution, found that they had the enormous task before them of changing the socio- economic structure of the country and bringing about socio- economic regeneration with a view to reaching social and economic justice to the common man. Large masses of people, bled white by well nigh two centuries of foreign rule, were living in abject poverty and destitution with ignorance and illiteracy accentuating their helplessness and despair. The society had degenerated into a status-oriented hierarchical society with little respect for the dignity of individual who was in the lower rungs of the social ladder or in an economically impoverished condition. The political revolution was completed and it had succeeded in bringing freedom to the country but freedom was not an end in itself, it was only a means to an end, the end being the raising of the people to higher levels of achievement and bringing about their total advancement and welfare. Political freedom had no meaning unless it was accompanied by social and economic freedom and it was therefore necessary to carry forward the social and economic revolution with a view to creating social economic conditions in which every one would be able to enjoy basic human rights and participate in the fruits of freedom and liberty in an egalitarian social and economic framework. It was with this end in view that the constitution makers enacted the Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution setting out the constitutional goal of a new socio-economic order. Now there was one feature of our national life which was ugly and shameful and which cried for urgent attention and that was the existence of bonded or forced labour in large parts of the country. This evil was the relic of feudal exploitative society and it was totally incompatible with the new egalitarian socio-economic order which, "We the people of India" were determined to build and constituted a gross and most revolting denial of basic human dignity. It was therefore necessary to eradicate this pernicious practice and wipe it out altogether from the national scene and this had to be done immediately because with the advent of freedom, such practice could not be allowed to continue to blight the national life any longer. Obviously, it would not have been enough merely to include abolition of forced labour in the Directive Principles of State Policy, because then the outlaying of this practice would not have been legally enforceable and it would have continued to plague our national life in violation of the basic constitutional norms and values until some appropriate legislation could be brought by the legislature forbidding such practice. The Constitution makers therefore decided to give teeth to their resolve to obliterate and wipe out this evil practice by enacting constitutional prohibition against it in the chapter on fundamental rights, so that the abolition of such practice may become enforceable and effective as soon as the Constitution came into force. This is the reason why the provision enacted in Article 23 was included in the chapter on fundamental rights. The prohibition against "traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour"


is clearly intended to be a general prohibition, total in its effect and all pervasive in its range and it is enforceable not only against the State but also against any other person indulging in any such practice.


The question then is as to what is the true scope and meaning of the expression "traffic in human beings and begar and other similar forms of forced labour" in Article 237 What are the forms of 'forced labour' prohibited by that Article and what kind of labour provided by a person can be regarded as 'forced labour' so as to fall within this prohibition ?


When the Constitution makers enacted Article 23 they had before them Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but they deliberately departed from its language and employed words which would make the reach and content of Article 23 much wider than- that of Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They banned 'traffic in human beings which is an expression of much larger amplitude than "slave trade" and they also interdicted "begar and other similar forms of forced labour". The question is what is the scope and ambit of the expression 'begar and other similar forms of forced labour ?" In this expression wide enough to include every conceivable form of forced labour and what is the true scope and meaning of the words ''forced labour ?" The word 'begar' in this Article is not a word of common use in English language. It is a word of Indian origin which like many other words has found its way in the English vocabulary. It is very difficult to formulate a precise definition of the word begar' but there can be no doubt that it is a form of forced labour under which a person is compelled to work without receiving any remuneration. Molesworth describes 'begar' as "labour or service exacted by a government or person in power without giving remuneration for it." Wilson's glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms gives the following meaning of the word 'begar': "a forced labourer, one pressed to carry burthens for individuals or the public. Under the old system, when pressed for public service, no pay was given. The Begari, though still liable to be pressed for public objects, now receives pay: Forced labour for private service is prohibited." "Begar" may therefore be loosely described as labour or service which a person is forced to give without receiving any remuneration for 'it. That was the meaning of the word 'begar' accepted by a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in S. Vasudevan v. S.D. Mital.(1) 'Begar' is thus clearly a film of forced labour. Now it is not merely 'begar' which is unconstitutionally prohibited by Article 23 but also all other similar forms of forced labour. This Article strikes at forced labour in whatever form it may manifest itself, because it is violative of human dignity and is contrary to basic human values. The practice of forced labour is condemned in almost every international instrument dealing with human rights. It is interesting to find that as far back as 1930 long before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into being, International Labour organisation adopted Convention No. 29 laying down that every member of the International Labour organisation which ratifies this convention shall "suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms" and this prohibition was elaborated in Convention No. 105 adopted by the International Labour organisation in 1957. The words "forced or compulsory labour" in Convention No. 29 had of course a limited meaning but that was so on account of the restricted definition of these words given in Article 2 of the Convention. Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 8 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also prohibit forced or compulsory labour. Article 23 is in the same strain and it enacts a prohibition against forced labour in whatever form it may be found. The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent laid some emphasis on the word 'similar' and contended that it is not every form of forced labour which is prohibited by Article 23 but only such form of forced labour as is similar to 'begar' and since 'begar' means labour or service which a person is forced to give without receiving any remuneration for it, the interdict of Article 23 is limited only to those forms of forced labour where labour or service is exacted from a person without paying any remuneration at all and if some remuneration is paid, though it be inadequate, it would not fall within the words 'other similar forms of forced labour. This contention seeks to unduly restrict the amplitude of the prohibition . against forced labour enacted in Article 23 and is in our opinion not well founded. It does not accord with the principle enunciated by this Court in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India(2) that when interpreting the provisions of the Constitution conferring fundamental rights, the attempt of the court should be to expand the reach and ambit of the fundamental rights rather than to attenuate their (1) AIR 1962 Bom. 53:


(2) [1978] 2 SCR 621.


meaning and content. It is difficult to imagine that the Constitution makers should have intended to strike only at certain forms of forced labour leaving it open to the socially or economically powerful sections of the community to exploit the poor and weaker sections by resorting to other forms of forced labour. Could there be any logic or reason in enacting that if a person is forced to give labour or service to another without receiving any remuneration at all it should be regarded as a pernicious practice sufficient to attract the condemnation of Article 23, but if some remuneration is paid for it, then it should be outside the inhibition of that Article ? If this were the true interpretation, Article 23 would be reduced to a mere rope of sand, for it would then be the easiest thing in an exploitative society for a person belonging to a socially or economically dominant class to exact labour or service from a person belonging to the deprived and vulnerable section of the community by paying a negligible amount of remuneration and thus escape the rigour of Article 23. We do not think it would be right to place on the language of Article 23 an interpretation which would emasculate its beneficent provisions and defeat the very purpose of enacting them. We are clear of the view that Article 23 is intended to abolish every form of forced labour. The words "other similar forms of forced labour are used in Article 23 not with a view to importing the particular characteristic of 'begar' that labour or service should be exacted without payment of any remuneration but with a view to bringing within the scope and ambit of that Article all other forms of forced labour and since 'begar' is one form of forced labour, the Constitution makers used the words "other similar forms of forced labour." If the requirement that labour or work should be exacted without any remuneration were imported in other forms of forced labour, they p would straightaway come within the meaning of the word 'begar' and in that event there would be no need to have the additional words "other similar forms of forced labour." These words would be rendered futile and meaningless and it is a well recognised rule of interpretation that the court should avoid a construction which as the effect of rendering any words used by the legislature superfluous or redundant. The object of adding these words was clearly to expand the reach and content of Article 23 by including, in addition to 'begar', other forms of forced labour within the prohibition of that Article. Every form of forced labour 'begar' or otherwise, is within the inhibition of Article 23 and it makes no difference whether the per-


son who is forced to give his labour or service to another is remunerated or not. Even if remuneration is paid, labour supplied by a person would be hit by this Article if it is forced labour, that is, labour supplied not willingly but as a result of force or compulsion. Take for example a case where a person has entered into a contract of service with another for a period of three years and he wishes to discontinue serving such other person before the expiration of the period of three years. If a law were to provide that in such a case the contract shall be specifically enforced and he shall be compelled to serve for the full period of three years, it would clearly amount to forced labour and such a law would be void as offending Article 23. That is why specific performance of a contract of service cannot be enforced against an employee and the employee cannot be forced by compulsion of law to continue to serve the employer. Of course, if there is a breach of the contract of service, the employee would be liable to pay damages to the employer but he cannot be forced to continue to serve the employer without breaching the injunction of Article 23. This was precisely the view taken by the Supreme Court of United States in Bailv v. Alabama(1) while dealing with a similar provision in the Thirteenth Amendment. There, a legislation enact ed by the Alabama State providing that when a person with intent to injure or defraud his employer enters into a contract in writing for the purpose of any service and obtains money or other property from the employer and without refunding the money or the property refuses or fails to perform such service, he will be punished with of fine. The constitutional validity of this legislation was challenged on the ground that it violated the Thirteenth Amendment which inter alia provides: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction". This challenge was upheld by a majority of the Court and Mr. Justice Hughes delivering the majority opinion said:


"We cannot escape the conclusion that although the statute in terms is to punish fraud, still its natural and inevitable effect is to expose to conviction for crime those . who simply fail or refuse to perform contracts for personal service in liquidation of a debt, and judging its purpose by its effect that it seeks in this way to provide the means of compulsion through which performance of such service may (1) 219 U.S. 219: 55 L. Ed. 191.

be secured. The question is whether such a statute is constitutional".


The learned Judge proceeded to explain the scope and ambit of the expression 'involuntary servitude' in the following words:


"The plain intention was to abolish slavery of whatever name and form and all its badges and incidents, to render impossible any state of bondage, to make labour free by prohibiting that control by which the personal service of one men is disposed of or coerced for another's benefit, which is the essence of involuntary servitude."

Then, dealing with the contention that the employee in that case had voluntarily contracted to perform the service which was sought to be compelled and there was therefore no violation of the provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment, the learned Judge observed:


"The fact that the debtor contracted to perform the labour which is sought to be compelled does not withdraw the attempted enforcement from the condemnation of the statute. The full intent of the constitutional provision could be defeated with obvious facility if through the guise of contracts under which advances had been made, debtors could be held to compulsory service. It is the compulsion of the service that the statute inhibits, for when that occurs, the condition of servitute is created which would be not less involuntary because of the original agreement to work out the indebtedness. The contract exposes the debtor to liability for the loss due to the breach, but not to enforced labour."

and proceeded to elaborate this thesis by pointing out:


"Peonage is sometimes classified as voluntary or involuntary, but this implies simply a difference in the mode of origin, but none in the character of the servitude. The one exists where the debtor voluntarily contracts to enter the Service of his creditor. The other is forced upon the debtor by some provision of law. But peonage however created, is compulsory service, involuntary servitude. The peon can release himself therefrom, it is true, by the pay-

ment of the debt, but otherwise the service is enforced. A clear distinction exists between peonage and the voluntary performance of labour or rendering of services in payment of a debt. In the latter case the debtor though contracting to pay his indebtedness by labour of service, and subject like any other contractor to an action for damages for breach of that contract, can elect at any time to break it, and no law or force compels performance or a continuance of the service."

It is therefore clear that even if a person has contracted with another to perform service and there is consideration for such service in the shape of liquidation of debt or even remuneration, he cannot be forced by compulsion of law or otherwise to continue to perform such service, as that would be forced labour within the inhibitian of Article 23. This Article strikes at every form of forced labour even if it has its origin in a contract voluntarily entered into by the person obligated to provide labour or service Vide Pollock v. Williams.(1) The reason is that it offends against human dignity to compel a person to provide labour or service to another if he does not wish to do so, even though it be in breach of the contract entered into by him. There should be no serfdom or involuntary servitude in a free democratic India which respects the dignity of the individual and the worth of the human person. Moreover, in a country like India where there is so much poverty and unemployment and there is no equality of bargaining power, a contract of service may appear on its face voluntary but it may, in reality, be involuntary, because while entering into the contract, the employee, by reason of his economically helpless condition, may have been faced with Hobson's choice, either to starve or to submit to the exploitative terms dictated by the powerful employer. It would be a travesty of justice to hold the employee in such a case to the terms of the contract and to compel him to serve the employer even though he may not wish to do so. That would aggravate the inequality and injustice from which the employee even otherwise suffers on account of his economically disadvantaged position and lend the authority of law to the exploitation of the poor helpless employee by the economically powerful employer. Article 23 therefore says that no one shall be forced to (1) 322 U.S. 4:88 Lawyers Edition 1095.


provide labour or service against his will, even though it be under a contract of service.


Now the next question that arises for consideration is whether there is any breach of Article 23 when a person provides labour or service to the State or to any other person and is paid less than the minimum wage for it. It is obvious that ordinarily no one would willingly supply labour or service to another for less than the minimum wager when he knows that under the law he is entitled to get minimum wage for the labour or service provided by him. It may therefore be legitimately presumed that when a person provides labour or service to another against receipt of remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, he is acting under the force of some compulsion which drives him to work though he is paid less than what he is entitled under law to receive. What Article 23 prohibits is 'forced labour' that is labour or service which a person is forced to provide and 'force' which would make such labour or service 'forced labour' may arise in several ways. It may be physical force which may compel a person to provide labour or service to another or it may be force exerted through a legal provision such as a provision for imprisonment or fine in case the employee fails to provide labour or service or it may even be compulsion arising from hunger and poverty, want and destitution. Any factor which deprives a person of a choice of alternatives and compels him to adopt one particular course of action may properly be regarded as 'force' and if labour or service is compelled as a result of such 'force', it would we 'forced labour'. Where a person is suffering from hunger or starvation, when he has no resources at all to fight disease or feed his wife and children or even to hide their nakedness, where utter grinding poverty has broken his back and reduced him to a state of helplessness and despair and where no other employment is available to alleviate the rigour of his poverty, he would have no choice but to accept any work that comes hims way, even if the remuneration offered to him is less than the minimum wage. He would be in no position to bargain with the employer; he would have to accept what is offered to him. And in doing so he would be acting not as a free agent with a choice between alternatives but under the compulsion of economic circumstances and the labour or service provided by him would be clearly 'forced labour.' There is no reason why the word 'forced' should be read in a narrow and restricted manner so as to be confined only to physical or legal 'force' particularly when the national charter, its fundamental document has promised to build a new socialist republic where there will be socioeconomic justice for all and every one shall have the right to work, to education and to adequate means of livelihood. The constitution makers have given us one of the most remarkable documents in history for ushering in a new socio-economic order and the Constitution which they have forged for us has a social purpose and an economic mission and therefore every word or phrase in the Constitution must be interpreted in a manner which would advance the socio-economic objective of the Constitution. It is not unoften that in capitalist society economic circumstance exert much greater pressure on an individual in driving him to a particular course of action than physical compulsion or force of legislative provision. The word 'force' must therefore be constructed to include not only physical or legal force but also force arising from the compulsion of economic circumstance which leaves no choice of alternatives to a person in want and compels him to provide labour or service even though the remuneration received for it is less than the minimum wage of course, if a person provides labour or service to another against receipt of the minimum wage, it would not be possible to say that the labour or service provided by him is 'forced labour' because he gets- what he is entitled under law to receive. No inference can reasonably be drawn in such a case that he is forced to provide labour or service for the simple reason that he would be providing labour or service against receipt of what is lawfully payable to him just like any other person who is not under the force of any compulsion. We are therefore of the view that where a person provides labour or service to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the words 'forced labour' under Article 23. Such a person would be entitled to come to the court for enforcement of his fundamental right under Article 23 by asking the court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him so that the labour or service provided by him ceases to be 'forced labour' and the breach of Article 23 is remedied. It is therefore clear that when the petitioners alleged that minimum wage was not paid to the workmen employed by the contractors, the complaint was really in effect and substance a complaint against violation of the fundamental right of the workmen under Article 23.


Before leaving this subject, we may point out with all the emphasis at our command that whenever any fundamental right, which is enforceable against private individuals such as, for example a fundamental right enacted in Article 17 or 23 or 24 is being violated, it is the constitutional obligation of the State to take the necessary steps for the purpose of interdicting such violation and ensuring observance of the fundamental right by the private indivi- dual who is transgressing the same. Of course, the person whose fundamental right is violated can always approach the court for the purpose of enforcement of his fundamental right, but that cannot absolve the State from its constitutional obligation to see that there is no violation of the fundamental right of such person, particularly. when he belongs to the weaker section humanity and is unable to wage a legal battle against a strong and powerful opponent who is exploiting him. The Union of India, the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority must therefore be held to be under an obligation to ensure observance of these various labour laws by the contractors and if the provisions of any of these labour laws are violated by the contractors, the petitioners indicating the cause of the workmen are entitled to enforce this obligation against the Union of India, the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority by filing the present writ petition. The preliminary objections urged on behalf of the respondents must accordingly be rejected.


Having disposed of these preliminary objections, we may turn to consider whether there was any violation of the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act 1948, Article 24 of the Constitution, the Equal Remuneration Act 1976, the Contract labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970 and the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 by the contractors. The Union of India in its affidavit in reply admitted that there were certain violations committed by the contractors but hastened to add that for these violations prosecutions were initiated against the errant contractors and no violation of any of the labour laws was allowed to go unpunished. The Union of India also conceded in its affidavit in reply that Re. 1/- per worker per day was deducted by the jamdars from the wage payable to the workers with the result that the workers did not get the minimum wage of Rh. 9.25 per day, but stated that proceedings had been taken for the purpose of recovering the amount of the short fall in minimum wage from the contractors. No particulars were however given of such proceedings adopted by the Union of India or the Delhi Administration or the Delhi Development Authority. It was for this reason that we directed by our order dated 11th May 1982 that whatever is the minimum wage for the time being or if the wage payable is higher than such wage, shall be paid by the contractors to the workmen directly without the intervention of the jamadars and that the jamadars shall not be entitled to deduct or recover any amount from the minimum wage payable to the workmen as and by way of commission or otherwise. He would also direct in addition that if the Union of India or the Delhi Administration or the Delhi Development Authority finds and for this purpose it may hold such inquiry as is possible in the circumstances that any of the workmen has not received the minimum wage payable to him, it shall take the necessary legal action against the contracts whether by way of prosecution or by way of recovery of the amount of the short-fall. We would also suggest that hereafter whenever any contracts are ' given by the government or any other governmental authority including 2 public sector corporation, it should be ensured by intro ducing a suitable provision in the contracts that wage shall be paid by the contractors to the workmen directly without the intervention of any jamadars or thekadars and that the contractors shall ensure that no amount by way of commission or otherwise is deducted or recovered by the Jamadars from the wage of the workmen. So far as observance of the other labour laws by the contractors is concerned, the Union of India, the Delhi Administration and the Delhi Development Authority disputed the claim of the petitioners that the provisions of these labour laws were not being implemented by the contractors save in a few instances where prosecutions had been launched against the contractors. Since it would not be possible for this Court to take evidence for the purpose of deciding this factual dispute between the parties and we also wanted to ensure that in any event the provisions of these various laws enacted for the benefit of the workmen were strictly observed and implemented by the contractors, we by our order dated 11th May 1982 appointed three ombudsmen and requested them to make periodical inspections of the sites of the construction work for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of these labour laws were being carried out and the workers were receiving the benefits and amenities provided for them under these beneficient statutes or whether there were any violations of these provisions being committed by the contractors so that on the basis of the reports of the three ombudsmen, this Court could give further direction in the matter if found necessary. We may add that whenever any construction work is being carried out either departmentally or through contractors, the government or any other governmental authority including a public sector corporation which is carrying out such work must take great care to see that the provisions of the labour laws are being strictly observed and they should not wait for any complaint to be received from the workmen in regard to nonobservance of any such provision before proceeding to take action against the erring officers or contractor, but they should institute an effective system of periodic inspections coupled with occasional surprise inspections by the higher officers in order to ensure that there are no violations of the provisions of labour laws and the workmen are not denied the rights and benefits to which they are entitled under such provisions and if any such violations are found, immediate action should be taken against defaulting officers or contractors. That is the least which a government or a governmental authority or a public sector corporation is expected to do in a social welfare state.


Supreme Court of India

Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union Of India & Others on 16 December, 1983

But the question then arises as to what is the power which may be exercised by the Supreme Court when it is moved by an "appropriate" proceeding for enforcement of a fundamental right. The only provision made by the Constitution makers in this behalf is to be found in clause (2) of Article 32 which confers power on the Supreme Court "to issue directions or orders or writs including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, which-ever may be appropriate, for enforcement of any of the fundamental rights. It will be seen that the power conferred by clause (2) of Article 32 is in the widest terms. It is not confined to issuing the high prerogative writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo quarranto, which are hedged in by strict conditions differing from one writ to another and which to quote the words spoken by Lord Atkin in United Australia Limited v. Barclays Bank Ltd. in another context often "stand in the path of justice Clanking their mediavel chains". But it is much wider and includes within its matrix, power to issue any directions, orders or writs which may be appropriate for enforcement of the fundamental right in question and this is made amply clear by the inclusive clause which refers to in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari. It is not only the high prerogative writs of mandamus, habeas corpus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari which can be issued by the Supreme Court but also writs in the nature of these high prerogative writs and therefore even if the conditions for issue of any of these high prerogative writs are not fulfilled, the Supreme Court would not be constrained to fold its hands in despair and plead its inability to help the citizen who has come before it for judicial redress, but would have power to issue any direction, order or writ including a writ in the nature of any high prerogative writ. This provision conferring on the Supreme Court power to enforce the fundamental rights in the widest possible terms shows the anxiety of the Constitution makers not to allow any procedural technicalities to stand in the way of enforcement of fundamental rights. The Constitution makers clearly intended that the Supreme Court should have the amplest power to issue whatever direction, order or writ may be appropriate in a given case for enforcement of a fundamental right. But what procedure shall be followed by the Supreme Court in exercising the power to issue such direction, order or writ ? That is a matter on which the Constitution is silent and advisedly so, because the Constitution makers never intended to fetter the discretion of the Supreme Court to evolve a procedure appropriate in the circums-


tances of a given case for the purpose of enabling it to exercise its power of enforcing a fundamental right. Neither clause (2) of Article 32 nor any other provision of the Constitution requires that any particular procedure shall be followed by the Supreme Court in exercising its power to issue an appropriate direction, order or writ. The purpose for which the power to issue an appropriate direction, order or writ is conferred on the Supreme Court is to secure enforcement of a fundamental right and obviously therefore, whatever procedure is necessary for fulfillment of the purpose must be permissible to the Supreme Court. It is not at all obligatory that an adversarial procedure, where each party produces his own evidence tested by cross examination by the other side and the judge sits like an umpire and decides the case only on the basis of such material as may be produced before him by both parties, must be followed in a proceeding under Article 32 for enforcement of a fundamental right. In fact, there is no such constitutional compulsion enacted in clause (2) of Article 32 or in any other part of the Constitution. It is only because we have been following the adversarial procedure for over a century owing to the introduction of the Anglo-Saxon system of jurisprudence under the British Rule that it has become a part of our conscious as well as sub-conscious thinking that every judicial proceeding must be cast in the mould of adversarial procedure and that justice cannot be done unless the adversarial procedure is adopted. But it may be noted that there is nothing sacrosanct about the adversarial procedure and in fact it is not followed in many other countries where the civil system of law prevails. The adversarial procedure with evidence led either party and tested by cross-examination by the other party and the judge playing a passive role has become a part of our legal system because it is embodied in the Code of Civil Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act. But these statutes obviously have no application where a new jurisdiction is created in the Supreme Court for enforcement of a fundamental right. We do not think we would be justified in imposing any restriction on the power of the Supreme Court to adopt such procedure as it thinks fit in exercise of its new jurisdiction, by engrafting adversarial procedure on it. when the Constitution makers have deliberately chosen not to insist on any such requirement and instead, left it open to the Supreme Court to follow such procedure as it thinks appropriate for the purpose of securing the end for which the power is conferred, namely, enforcement of a fundamental right. The adversarial procedure has, in fact, come in for a lot of criticism even in the country of its origin and there is an increasing tendency even in that country to depart from its strict norms. Lord De lin speaking of the English judicial system said: "If our methods were as antiquated as our legal methods, we should be a bankrupt country". And Foster Q.C. observed : "I think the whole English system is non-sense. I would go to the root of it- the civil case between two private parties is a mimic battle........conducted according to rules of evidence." There is a considerable body of juristic opinion in our country also which believes that strict adherence to the adversarial procedure can some times lead to injustice, particularly where the parties are not evenly balanced in social or economic strength. Where one of the parties to a litigation belongs to a poor and deprived section of the community and does not possess adequate social and material resources, he is bound to be at a disadvantage as against a strong and powerful opponent under the adversary system of justice, because of his difficulty in getting competent legal representation and more than anything els, his inability to produce relevant evidence before the court. Therefore, when the poor come before the court, particularly for enforcement of their fundamental rights, it is necessary to depart from the adversarial procedure and to evolve a new procedure which will make it possible for the poor and the weak to bring the necessary material before the court for the purpose of securing enforcement of their fundamental rights. It must be remembered that the problems of the poor which are now coming before the court are qualitatively different from those which have hither to occupied the attention of the court and they need a different kind of lawyering skill and a different kind of judicial approach. If we blindly follow the adversarial procedure in their case, they would never be able to enforce their fundamental rights and the result would be nothing but a mockery of the Constitution. We have therefore to abandon the laissez faire approach in the judicial process particularly where it involves a question of enforcement of fundamental rights and forge new tools, devise new methods and adopt new strategies for the purpose of making fundamental rights meaningful for the large masses of people. And this is clearly permissible on the language of clause (2) of Article 32 because the Constitution makers while enacting that clause have deliberately and advisedly not used any words restricting the power of the court to adopt any procedure which it considers appropriate in the circumstances of a given case for enforcing a fundamental right. It is true that the adoption of this non-traditional approach is not likely to find easy acceptance from the generality of lawyers because their minds are conditioned by constant association with the existing system of administration of justice which has become ingrained in them as a result of long years of familiarity and experience and become part of their mental make up and habit and they would therefore always have an unconscious predilection for the prevailing system of administration of justice. But if we want the fundamental rights to become a living reality and the Supreme Court to become a real sentinel on the quivive, we must free ourselves from the shackles of outdated and outmoded assumptions and bring to bear on the subject fresh outlook and original unconventional thinking.


We accordingly allow this writ petition and issue the above directions to the Central Government and the State of Haryana and the various authorities mentioned in the preceding paragraphs of this judgment so that these poor unfortunate workmen who lead a miserable existence in small hovels, exposed to the vagaries of weather, drinking foul water, breathing heavily dust-laden polluted air and breaking and blasting stone all their life, may one day be able to realise that freedom is not only the monopoly of a few but belongs to them all and that they are also equally entitled along with others to participate in the fruits of freedom and development. These directions may be summarized as follows (1) The Government of Haryana will, without any delay and at any rate within six weeks from today, constitute Vigilance Committee in each sub- division of a district in compliance with the requirements of section 13 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 keeping in view the guidelines given by us in this judgment.


(2) The Government of Haryana will instruct the district magistrates to take up the work of identification of bonded labour as one of their top priority tasks and to map out areas of concentration of bonded labour which are mostly to be found in stone quarries and brick kilns and assign task forces for identification and release of bonded labour and periodically hold labour camps in these areas with a view to educating the labourers inter alia with the assistance of the National Labour Institute. (3) The State Government as also the Vigilance Committees and the district magistrates will take the assistance of non-political social action groups and voluntary agencies for the purpose of ensuring implementation of the provisions of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. (4) The Government of Haryana will draw up within a period of three months from today a scheme or programme for rehabilitation of the freed bonded labourers in the light of the guidelines set out by the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Labour in his letter dated 2nd September 1982 and implement such scheme or programme to the extent found necessary.


(5) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will take all necessary steps for the purpose of ensuring that minimum wages are paid to the workmen employed in the stone quarries and stone crushers in accordance with the principles laid down in this judgment and this direction shall be carried out within the shortest possible time so that within six weeks from today, the workmen start actually receiving in their hands a wage not less than the minimum wage.


(6) If payment of wages is made on truck basis, the Central Government will direct the appropriate officer of the Central Enforcement Machinery or any other appropriate authority or officer to determine the measurement of each truck as to how many cubic ft. of stone it can contain and print or inscribe such measurement on the truck so that appropriate and adequate wage is received by the workmen for the work done by them and they are not cheated out of their legitimate wage.


(7) The Central Government will direct the inspecting officers of the Central Enforcement Machinery or any other appropriate inspecting officers to carry out surprise checks at least once in a week for the purpose of ensuring that the trucks are not loaded beyond their true measurement capacity and if it is found that the trucks are loaded in excess of the true measurement capacity, the inspecting officers carrying out such checks will immediately bring this fact to the notice of the appropriate authorities and necessary action shall be initiated against the defaulting mine owners and/or thekedars or jamadars.


(8) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will ensure that payment of wages is made directly to the workmen by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners or at any rate in the presence of a representative of the mine lesseses or stone crusher owners and the inspecting officers of the Central Government as also of the Government of Haryana shall carry out periodic checks in order to ensure that the payment of the stipulated wage is made to the workmen.


(9) The Central Board of Workers Education will organise periodic camps near the sites of stone quarries and stone crushers in Faridabad district for the purpose of educating the workmen in the rights and benefits conferred upon them by social welfare and labour laws and the progress made shall be reported to this Court by the Central Board of Workers Education at least once in three months.


(10) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will immediately take steps for the purpose of ensuring that the stone crusher owners do not continue to foul the air and they adopt either of two devices, namely,, keeping a drum of water above the stone crushing machine with arrangement for continuous spraying of water upon it or installation of dust sucking machine and a compliance report in regard to this direction shall be made to this Court on or before 28th February, 1984.


(11) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will immediately ensure that the mine lessees and stone crusher owners start supplying pure drinking water to the workmen on a scale of at least 2 litres for every work man by keeping suitable vessels in a shaded place at conveniently accessible points and such vessels shall be kept in clean and hygienic condition and shall be emptied, cleaned and refilled every day and the appropriate authorities of the Central Government and the Government of Haryana will supervise strictly the enforcement of this direction and initiate necessary action if there is any default.


(12) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will ensure that minimum wage is paid to the women and/or children who look after the vessels in which pure drinking water is kept for the workmen.


(13) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will immediately direct the mine lessees and stone crusher owners to start obtaining drinking water from any unpolluted source or sources of supply and to transport it by tankers to the work site with sufficient frequency so as to be able to keep the vessels filled up for supply of clean drinking water to the workmen and the Chief Administrator, Faridabad Complex will set up the points from where the mine lessees and stone crusher owners can, if necessary, obtain supply of potable water for being carried by tankers.


(14) The Central Government and the State Government will ensure that conservancy facilities in the shape of latrines and urinals in accordance with the provisions contained in section 20 of the Mines Act, 1950 and Rules 33 to 36 of the Mines Rules 1955 are provided at the latest by 15th February 1984.


(15) The Central Government and the State Government will take steps to immediately ensure that appropriate and adequate medical and first aid facilities as required by section 21 of the Mines Act 1952 and Rules 40 to 45A of the Mines Rules 1955 are provided to the workmen not later than 31st January 1984.


(16) The Central Government and the Government of Haryana will ensure that every workmen who is required to carry out blasting with explosives is not only trained under the Mines Vocational Training Rules 1966 but also holds first aid qualification and carries a first aid outfit while on duty as required by Rule 45 of the Mines Rules 1955.


(17) The Central Government and the State Government will immediately take steps to ensure that proper and adequate medical treatment is provided by the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers to the workmen employed by them as also to the members of their families free of cost and such medical assistance shall be made available to them without any cost of transportation or otherwise and the doctor's fees as also the cost of medicines prescribed by the doctors including hospitalisation charges, if any, shall also be reimbursed to them.


(18) The Central Government and the State Government will ensure that the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act 1961, the Maternity Benefit (Mines and Circus) Rules 1963 and the Mines Creche Rules 1966 where applicable in any particular stone quarry or stone crusher are given effect to by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners.


(19) As soon as any workman employed in a stone quarry or stone crusher receives injury or contracts disease in the course of his employment, the concerned mine lessee or stone crusher owner shall immediately report this fact to the Chief Inspector or Inspecting Officers of the Central Government and/or the State Government and such Inspecting Officers shall immediately provide legal assistance. to the workman with a view to enabling him to file a claim for compensation before the appropriate court or authority and they shall also ensure that such claim is pursued vigorously and the amount of compensation awarded to the workman is secured to him.


(20) The Inspecting Officers of the Central Government as also of the State Government will visit each stone quarry or stone crusher at least once in a fortnight and ascertain whether there is any workman who is injured or who is suffering from any disease or illness, and if so, they will immediately take the necessary steps for the purpose of providing medical and legal assistance.


(21) If the Central Government and the Government of Haryana fail to ensure performance of any of the obligations set out in clauses 11, 13, 14 and 15 by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners within the period specified in those respective clauses, such obligation or obligations to the extent to which they are not performed shall be carried out by the Central Government and the Government of Haryana.


We also appoint Shri Laxmi Dhar Misra, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Government of India as a Commissioner for the purpose of carrying out the following assignment.


(a) He will visit the stone quarries and stone crushers in Faridabad district and ascertain by enquiring from the labourers in each stone quarry or stone crusher in the manner set out by us whether any of them are being forced to provide labour and are bonded labourers and he will prepare in respect of each stone quarry or stone crusher a statement showing the names and particulars of those who, according to the inquiry made by him, are bonded labourers and he will also ascertain from them whether they want to continue to work in the stone quarry or stone crusher or they want to go away and if he finds that they want to go away, he will furnish particulars in regard to them to the District Magistrate, Faridabad and the District Magistrate will, on receipt of the particulars from Shri Laxmi Dhar Misra, make necessary arrangements for releasing them and provide for their transporation back to their homes and for this purpose the State Government will make the requisite funds available to the District Magistrate.


(b) He will also enquire from the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers as also from the thekedars and jamadars whether there are any advances made by them to the labourers working in the stone quarries or stone crushers and if so, whether there is any documentary evidence in support of the same and he will also ascertain what, according to the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers or the Jamadar or Thekedar, are the amounts of loans still remaining outstanding against such labourers.


(c) He will also ascertain by carrying out sample check whether the workmen employed in any particular stone quarry or stone crusher are actually in receipt of wage not less than the minimum wage and whether the directions given in this order in regard to computation and payment of minimum wage are being implemented by the authorities.


(d) He will conduct an inquiry in each of the stone quarries and stone crushers in Faridabad District for the purpose of ascertaining whether there are any contract labourers or inter-State migrant workmen in any of these stone. quarries or stone crushers and if he finds as a result of his inquiry that the Contract Labour Act and/or the Inter State Migrant Workmen Act is applicable, he will make a report to that effect to the Court.


(e) He will ascertain whether the directions given by us in this judgment regarding effective arrangement for supply of pure drinking water have been carried out by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners and pure drinking water has been made available to the workmen in accordance with those directions.


(f) He will also ascertain whether the mine lessees and owners of stone crushers in each of the stone quarries and stone crushers visited by him have complied with the directions given by us in this judgment regarding provision of conservancy facilities.


(g) He will also ascertain whether the directions given by us in this judgment in regard to provision of first aid facilities and proper and adequate medical treatment including hospitalisation to the workmen and the members of their families are being carried out by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners and the necessary first aid facilities and proper and adequate medical services including hospitalisation are provided to the workmen and the members of their families.


(h) He will also enquire whether the various other directions given by us in this judgment have been and are being carried out by the mine lessees and stone crusher owners.